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The vainika from the future

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CHATLINE Veena artiste B.Sivakumar shares with ARUNA V.IYER how he has kept the ancient veena alive

As a 21-year-old computer programmer, veena artiste B. Sivakumar and his friends mostly hung out at the various sabhas in Chennai: “We were looking for inspiration when we went to over 300 concerts in a year,” he recalls. Today, nearly 20 years later, that inspiration is manifest not just in his onstage performances, but transcends into his efforts to keep the ancient veena alive.

“For a few years between 1995 and 2005, there seemed to be a dearth of solo veena performers and a noticeable dip in the number of learners as well,” says Sivakumar. He explains that the veena’s large size made it impractical to transport it. “The saraswati veena can easily be damaged or broken during transit and can be repaired only by its traditional makers in and around Thanjavur,” he says. Over the years the saraswati veena, perfected between the 16th and 17th centuries, has evolved multiple times and today, the demand is for a light-weight, easily portable version that does not compromise on its musicality.

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